What do fecal characteristics indicate about health?

When it comes to stool, everyone thinks it's just a smelly waste, and even wants it to disappear as soon as possible without paying attention to it. But few people know, stool is considered one of the tools that provides you with relatively accurate information about your digestive condition as well as your body's general health.

Stool is made from the residue of digested foods, proteins, bacteria, salts and some substances released from the small intestine. Each person's stool has different characteristics. To evaluate whether the stool condition is normal or not, there are some general rules for easy assessment. Stool is considered normal when you can pass it once in the morning, is oblong in shape, and has a light brown color due to Bilirubin - a pigment compound formed from the breakdown of red blood cells in the body, has little odor, is easy to flush, does not stick to the toilet, does not disintegrate and is the same color as a used food.

Properties of stool

The shape of the stool depends on the time it stays in the colon, which is also an important measure to evaluate constipation. When talking about feces appearance, health experts often use the Bristol Stool Chart to evaluate.

The Bristol Stool Chart classifies stool into 7 different categories:

  • Type 1: Stools are small round in shape, in discrete lumps, lumpy like marbles. When defecating, it feels difficult to push out. This classification means you are constipated and need to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet.
  • Type 2: The stool is lumpy, long in shape and consists of many small lumps gathered together. It's not serious, but this is still a form of stool that is considered constipated.
  • Type 3: The stool is shaped like a sausage, but has cracks on the surface. This is normal, but you still need to add more water.
  • Type 4: Stools have a long shape and smooth surface. This is considered a good form of stool and you should maintain this stool quality every time you defecate.
  • Type 5: Small like type 1, but softer and easier to expel. This type of stool shows that you are lacking fiber and should add fiber to your diet.
  • Type 6: Stools are pasty and mucous. This type of stool is a bit too soft and can be a sign of mild diarrhea. Try to drink lots of water and supplement electrolytes to improve this condition.
  • Type 7: The stool is completely loose, without any hard structure. In other words, you are suffering from diarrhea. Stool is moving through the digestive system too quickly and is not considered good stool.

What does the color of our stool mean?

As well as size and consistency, stool color can be a useful indicator of what's going on in the body. Therefore, regularly pay attention to them to have timely solutions.

Dr. Monica Borkar - Gastroenterologist at NorthShore University, HealthSystem in Glenview, Illinois (USA) said "changes in stool color are influenced by the food we eat, and are usually not there's nothing to worry about. However, there are some cases that are dangerous.”

Here are some possibilities regarding the color of your waste:

* Green

The cause of green stool is usually because you eat too many vegetables or green foods such as spinach, kale, broccoli...

In addition to this cause, green stools can also be due to eating habits such as eating too much at once or eating foods that are difficult to digest, causing the digestion process to happen too quickly and bile not having time to move. turns from green to yellow-brown, causing the stool to have an unusual color.

Once you have ruled out dietary causes, look at diagnosing the disease from this somewhat uncommon color. Specifically, this could be a sign of infection, such as: Salmonella, Giardia (an aquatic parasite), and norovirus. Or it can also be a sign of digestive diseases such as Crohn's disease, Celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome or ulcerative colitis...

* Yellow

Dr. Jacqueline Wolf - Gastroenterologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston (USA) said that if you have diarrhea, your stool may be yellow or greenish. This is very common in cases of diarrhea caused by infection, Celiac disease or simply due to stress or anxiety. When the digestive process happens too quickly, the stool will not have time to form and turn back to its original dark brown color.

Yellow stools can also be caused by excess fat in the diet and can be a side effect of a low-carb diet. Especially if the stool is slippery and smells like rotten eggs, this can be a warning sign that you are suffering from pancreatic diseases or diseases that interfere with fat absorption, such as Giardia infection, a parasite. Insects can cause diarrhea, jaundice, fever...

In addition to medical causes, just like green stools, yellow stools can also be due to eating a lot of yellow or orange foods such as carrots, turmeric, sweet potatoes...

* Red

You should be cautious when diagnosing the disease in this case. Because red stool often comes from worrying causes.

However, before thinking about diseases, review your diet. Because if you eat a lot of red foods such as tomatoes, beets, gac sticky rice, red dragon fruit... then this is most likely the "culprit".

If the diet does not contain the above foods, bright red or dark red stools can be a sign of bleeding from the digestive tract due to diseases, such as: hemorrhoids, anal fissures, and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), colon polyps or colon cancer.

* Black

Black stool can also make many people panic. Sometimes this condition may just be due to the effects of taking Pepto-Bismol, a drug that often causes dark stools. In addition, it can also be due to iron supplements or simply because you eat a lot of blueberries. Stools are usually molded and do not have an unpleasant odor.

However, if you do not take medication and your stool is black, this could be a sign of bleeding from the esophagus, stomach or small intestine. When this condition occurs, blood will mix with digestive fluids and make the stool black. Stools are often thick, shiny black like tar, sticky, and have a very unpleasant odor.

* Gray, white or silver

It may be due to taking large amounts of bismuth subsalicylate and other antidiarrheal drugs. In addition to this reason, white stools can also be due to the liver not making enough bile or the bile ducts may be blocked by stones or tumors, preventing bile from entering the small intestine.

This phenomenon is also very common in people with hepatitis or cirrhosis, hematological diseases that cause hemolysis. If you encounter this condition, in addition to white stools, you may also have symptoms such as fever, nausea, itching, and yellow skin and eyes.

How to have a healthy digestive system?

If you are constipated, eat a lot of vegetables because the amount of fiber in vegetables (20 - 25g) will help you have easier bowel movements. More specifically, pay attention to providing enough water for the body because it helps lubricate the intestinal wall, while making stool softer, thereby making it easier to pass.

The body's resistance is reduced due to bacterial infections. Beneficial bacteria do not have enough "force" to help the immune system maintain. Two-thirds of the immune system is located in the intestinal tract. Therefore, supplementing intestinal bacteria (beneficial bacteria) have an important role in determining the health status of the body.